We look forward all year to the Maui Film Festival, those enchanted nights when we load up our blankets and beach chairs and head off to Wailea for the aptly named Celestial Cinema.
It's a Maui rite of passage for us, a time when we bond with the community in a shared experience of expansion.
It's an effort, but one well worth it. For those of you who have never been - and I urge you to try it next year - we drive to the end of Piilani Highway in Kihei and follow the sharp right as the road descends to Wailea. An immediate left turn takes us to the grassy sward that becomes a well-organized parking lot for this annual event in the middle of June.
We grab our gear and walk down to the row of waiting Roberts buses, whose invariably courteous drivers stow our things. We begin the evening's magical mystery tour in the company of other happy souls eager to have their hearts and minds opened in a setting conductive to that experience.
Barry and Stella Rivers have a gift for picking films that uplift, and we gravitate to the ones that journalistically inform at the same time as they entertain. Over the years we've learned about peak oil, what's really being served at McDonald's, how corporations got to be defined under law as "people" and how the venerable staple of corn turned into an agent of obesity.
On some level I feel it's my civic duty to attend the festival's offerings at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center and find out about the transformative movements awake in the world, presented as film only can. As the brochure says, "Remember just how powerful and empowering great cinema is, and then do something, anything, to help turn things around."
This year we discovered that Americans buy more than 260,000 computers every day and throw away 247,000 of them, half of which end up at dump sites in emerging countries where impoverished young boys pick through the toxic trash to glean precious metals. Each device, in the making, consumes 530 pounds of fossil fuel, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water, not to mention several pounds of lead embedded in its glass. Only 20 percent of this is recycled.
We learned (from the brochure, we drove down but the film never happened) about Plastiki, David de Rothschild's raft with a hull made of plastic water bottles, a spiritual analogue of Thor Heyerdal's Kon-Tiki that proved long ocean voyages were possible in a balsa-wood raft.
On opening day I bumped into former Mayor Charmaine Tavares at the parking lot of the MACC as I was leaving a film about the Mayan Long Count Calendar and the great celestial conjunction waiting for us late this year at the end of the 13th "bak'tun" cycle. She had come to see a film about an astonishing guide dog.
I'm always intrigued by the layers of history on Maui, and asked Tavares to to tell me about the time in the '60s when her father, Mayor Hannibal Tavares, helped usher in the Wailea phenomenon. A sage decision was made to create a "high-end resort," similar to Kaanapali, designed to give Maui status as a classy destination and bring in revenue for the county.
"It's worked for us," she said.
Hannibal Tavares, once a public relations official for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., worked well with Alexander & Baldwin when five beautiful beaches in South Maui were sold to Matson, its subsidiary.
Ben Baker, head of finance for Maui Pineapple Co. in its glory days, shook his head when he told me how the comptroller at HC&S set a ridiculously low price on what he considered useless scrub. The name for the resort that emerged was derived from Wailea Point, known for its excellent diving site.
But back to the bus. It let us off at the clubhouse of the Gold and Emerald Course and we threaded our way up the hill, past the food booths, to an always thrilling sight. The driving range had become a magnificent outdoor amphitheater in the hollow of low hills, above which some years the moon lazily slides. This time the canopy was a dazzling universe of stars.
The enormous screen came to life, and once again, we were taken away to a reality larger than ourselves.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.